‘Jocky Wilson Said’ - surely a play made for The Crucible. The home of the world championships would be a perfect setting for the tale of one of the most charismatic characters ever to play snooker’s sister sport, darts.
The play opened in Glasgow last night based on an unlikely adventure in the life of the gloriously unathletic Scot John Thomas Wilson. Much of snooker’s mis-spent youth was lived in the company of darts, often its wilder and boozier sibling.
Darts became a TV phenomenon, as snooker had before it, thanks to men like Wilson who grew up in a Scottish orphanage after his parents were deemed unfit to raise him.
He joined the Army at 16, worked as a coalman, fish-processor and a miner before a spell of unemployment in 1979 during which he won £500 at a Butlins darts tournament . Within three years he was world champion and a folk hero.
His gestures, face-pulling and pint-swilling made him one of the most recognised personalities in sport and created the pun that gives the play its name.
His picture was used as a backdrop on Top of the Pops in 1982 behind Dexys Midnight Runners when they sang ‘Jackie Wilson Said’, a song about the legendary black soul singer. Dexy’s singer Kevin Rowland said he used the picture
as a joke because their names sounded so similar - though arguably more people would have recognised the darts phenomenon.
But there was inevitably a dark side to the burly boozer’s antics. Drink often got the better of him. After abusing an official at a tournament in Leicester in 1982 he was banned from defending his title. At the 1984 world championship, he fell off the stage drunk.
His greatest moment came at the 1989 world championships where he raced to a 5-0 lead against Eric Bristow, finally stumbling over the line to win 6-4.
In the early 90s, Jocky was one of the professionals who broke away from the British Darts Organisation and helped to turn the sport into the multi-million pound game it is today.
‘Jocky Wilson Said’ is based around an almost surreal true story about Wilson’s trip to America in 1979 for an exhibition match where he missed a lift to his next venue and ended up trying to hitchhike 400 miles across the Nevada desert. Jocky on the oche was a sight to behold but his was a life touched by tragedy. Let’s hope the play does him some justice.